Despite Coronavirus Resurgence, Shutdowns Should Be off the Table

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

In recent weeks, coronavirus cases have increased throughout the nation, which has led some governors, such as Illinois’ Gov. Pritzker and Michigan’s Gov. Whitmer, to re-issue shutdown orders. However, a rise in coronavirus cases does not mean states should re-enact shutdowns, which proved to be economically and socially disastrous earlier this year.

There are several reasons why states should refrain from issuing draconian shutdowns, as we now know much more about the virus.

First, we now know, without a doubt, that coronavirus overwhelmingly impacts older Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of November 12, the vast majority of deaths due to COVID-19 have occurred among Americans older than 65.

As CDC data shows, 177,375 of the 223,984 deaths attributed to coronavirus have occurred among Americans aged 65 and older. At the other end of the spectrum, 491 Americans aged 24 and younger have died from COVID-19.

Across-the-board shutdowns of schools, businesses, restaurants, etc. fail to consider the fact that most Americans, especially those under the age of 65, are actually not all that susceptible to coronavirus.

A more tactical approach, that takes into account the fact that COVID-19 has an outsized impact on those over the age of 65, ought to be considered in place of shutdowns.

Second, as more and more information has become available over the past several months, we are now better equipped to determine how the virus is transmitted. Although many governors, such as Pritzker, claim that restaurants, for example, are “super spreader locations,” they fail to provide data to back up these assertions.

For instance, in Lake County, Illinois, where I live, bars and restaurants have been closed for indoor dining for more than two weeks. Yet, there is little to no evidence that these businesses are indeed super spreader locations, as Pritzker stated.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, “This week, the governor’s office provided a chart showing that in August and September 2,300 confirmed coronavirus patients had visited a restaurant or bar in the previous two weeks. While those establishments make up the largest category of places visited by those infected during that two-month period, the numbers don’t definitively say that those people contracted the virus at a specific bar or restaurant.”

In other words, despite the governor’s claim that restaurants and bars are super spreader locations, his office is unable to offer solid evidence in support.

Preventing indoor dining at bars and restaurants as winter approaches will be the nail in the coffin to an industry already reeling from months of lost revenue. More than 100,000 restaurants are expected to close their doors permanently this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Governors and local leaders ought to think twice before issuing shutdowns based on their intuition, without sound science and data to back it up.

Third, shutdowns have an enormous social cost. Multiple studies show that since shutdowns were enacted earlier this year, there has been a major increase in domestic violence, suicides, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, child abuse, and several other societal ills.

Shutdowns have had a devastating effect on the nation’s mental health and well-being. The toll that social and physical isolation due to shutdowns has had upon millions of Americans, young and old, cannot be overstated.

Shutdowns, which are a misguided one-size-fits-all plan to mitigate the spread of the virus, have proven to be ineffectual in preventing the spread and have caused massive economic and social harm. No wonder the World Health Organization and Dr. Fauci have come out against them.

The absolute last thing the United States needs at this point, especially with multiple vaccines on the cusp, is more draconian shutdowns, which would do more harm than good.

Chris Talgo ([email protected]) is an editor at The Heartland Institute.